Thursday, November 12, 2015

Drink Local at Northern Virginia’s Tin Cannon Brewing

Tin Cannon Brewing Tasting Flight Northern Virginia

Just a couple years ago, Virginia only had a handful of craft breweries.  Now there are over 100 and Virginia’s craft beer scene is quickly growing.  One of Virginia’s new breweries is Tin Cannon Brewing Company, which opened November 2014 in Gainesville, a town in Northern Virginia a short drive away from Washington, D.C. 

Tin Cannon Brewing Company is a nano-brewery though you wouldn’t know it just by stepping into their tasting room.  When we visited, Tin Cannon had a total of 12 beers on tap.  You would imagine with that kind of lineup the back room would be filled with large, shiny, stainless-steel tanks.  We were shocked when we were led into the brewing area to find out they use a two-barrel brewing system to make all their beer.  This two barrel system makes four kegs or 64 gallons of beer at a time. 

Two-Barrel Brewing System Tin Cannon Brewing Northern Virginia

Tin Cannon brewers Aaron Ludwig and John Hilkert met at church.  They both enjoyed home brewing and decided to open a craft brewery in Northern Virginia.  They brought in Jose Ortiz shortly thereafter.  To keep up with the demand for their craft beer, the brewery is closed Monday through Wednesday for brewing and they produce six batches a week.

You may be wondering why the brewery is named Tin Cannon.  Sure, it’s in Civil War battlefield country and there are cannons everywhere, so the cannon reference makes sense.  But if a tin cannon ever existed, it was surely a disaster that didn’t last long.  The story is that one of the guys was trying to draw a logo with a keg.  The others joked that it looked more like a tin can than a keg.  That sparked an idea, with tin cans being the pre-runner of aluminum cans (in which Tin Cannon’s beer is not found) and cannons being a big part of the Virginia landscape, and the name Tin Cannon Brewing Company was born.

Tin Cannon Brewing Beer Taps Northern Virginia

During our visit, we tasted all 12 beers they had on tap (it’s a hard job, but someone’s got to do it).  Their beer list illustrates how diverse Tin Cannon’s offerings are.

Virginia Blonde: This golden colored ale is an easy-to-drink day beer.

Virginia Harvest Ale: This amber ale has a surprising amount of flavor and was one of my favorites.  This is also a special beer because all of the malts and hops are products of Virginia.

Smokey Bear Experimental: Another of my favorites, this brown ale is a twist on Oktoberfest beer with smoky malts.

Unkel Dunkel: Unkel Dunkel is a dunkelweizen, a darker version of a wheat beer.

Vaughn’s Peanut Butter: While not quite as good as one of my favorite beers, Peanut Butter Cup Porter by Karl Strauss, Tin Cannon’s English Porter is a good beer with a mild peanut butter flavor and a strong peanut butter aroma achieved from adding natural peanut butter directly to the boil.

Abbi’s Drool: We learned that Abbi’s Drool is named after the grown daughter of one of the brewers, but we didn’t learn why the drool.  This northern English style brown ale was another of my favorites of Tin Cannon’s beers.

Cavalier Joe: Yet another one of my favorites, the Cavalier Joe is a Bourbon Porter made with malts infused with Tennessee Bourbon Whisky. 

Single Cannon: West coast IPA is a term coined to describe the signature super hoppy IPAs brewed in my home state of California.  They are not my favorite.  So, while I didn’t particularly enjoy Single Cannon, if you are a fan of west coast IPAs, you will probably enjoy this beer.

Twin Cannons: If you enjoy Tin Cannon’s Single Cannon but find yourself thinking, “I gotta have more hops!,” then Twin Cannons is the beer for you.  It’s a double IPA with a lot of hop flavor.  Twin Cannon was the predecessor to Single Cannon, which was toned down a notch.

Busted Pipe Black IPA: Tin Cannon’s black IPA is another hoppy beer with a lot of roasted malts to balance it out.

Humble Admiration: The Tin Cannon brewers are fans of California brewery Stone Brewing Co., so they brewed Humble Admiration as a tribute to Stone’s Arrogant Bastard.

Punk’Tin Ale: The Punk’Tin Ale is a seasonal pumpkin ale and a huge hit with the locals, and with me.  The pumpkin ale was brewed with 10 pounds of pumpkin and is perfectly spiced.

Tin Cannon Brewing Kegs Northern Virginia

We also got to get a sneak peek at Tin Cannon’s limited release Barleywine which will be released for Christmas.  They added 13 pounds of rum-soaked raisins to the beer which raised the alcohol content from 11% to 13%.  They believe it will age well and suggest buying one to drink immediately and one to age when it is released.  When aging bottled beer, store it upright in a cool dark place.  Another beer in the works is an anniversary beer, a vanilla coffee hazelnut stout.

When you head to Northern Virginia for civil war history and nature, set aside some time to throw back a beer or a flight at Tin Cannon Brewing Company and celebrate the growth of craft breweries in Virginia.

Thank you to Discover Prince William & Manassas for hosting our trip to Virginia and making this post possible.  As always, all opinions are my own.

Katherine Belarmino has been traveling for over ten years on a quest to see as much of the world as possible, experience new cultures, and sample other cuisines and libations. She also writes the travel blog Travel the World, which journals her world travels with her husband Romeo and seeks to encourage others to take the time to travel.